A New York inmate who has never golfed a game in his life is now a free man, with his innocence restored to him thanks to the game. Golf Digest has the incredible conclusion to the story of Valentino Dixon, a 48-year-old who caught the magazine's attention six years ago, when it profiled the detailed colored-pencil drawings he did of golf courses, a passion that began when a warden asked him to illustrate Augusta National’s 12th hole using a photograph. He spent as many as 10 hours a day drawing, and the magazine dove into his art as well as his story. It seemed off. He was serving a 39-years-to-life sentence for the August 1991 murder of 17-year-old Torriano Jackson at a Buffalo street party, reports the AP.
What Golf Digest found when it started digging didn't exactly inspire confidence in the conviction: Though the gun was Dixon's, there was no physical evidence, unreliable witnesses, and another man's confession to the crime just two days after it occurred, among other things. Its 2012 article spurred national media coverage and interest from the Georgetown University Prison Reform Project, but as of 2017, things seemed at a dead end. The article explains the "confluence of factors" that went on to fuel Dixon's vacated conviction, which included the magazine's work and attention on the case from the Erie County district attorney’s wrongful convictions unit. After 27 years behind bars, Dixon was released on Wednesday. Read the full story for more on the man who has now admitted to the shooting and what Dixon plans to do now. (Read more wrongful conviction stories.)